Accurate Reporting? “Not totally”

What if Toyota built its cars according to the quality standards used by our news media?  Would there be a Toyota driver alive today?  Would they have to rename the company “Chrysler”?

“Toyota exec says recall won’t ‘totally’ fix problem” – This headline is typical of the way American news organizations have treated Toyota executive James E. Lentz’s testimony before the US House Commerce and Energy Committee.  Even the journals that use phrases like “Executive admits recall may not totally solve…” seem to be suggesting that Lentz had identified more serious problems with Toyota’s vehicles.

What Lentz really said was quite different, according to Colorado Springs’ news station, KRDO.

Lentz said that, while the company had not expressly ruled out an electronics malfunction, “We have not found a malfunction” in the electronics of any of the cars at issue. He cited “fail-safe mechanisms” in the cars that were designed to shut off or reduce engine power “in the event of a system failure.”

But when pressed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on whether he could say with certainty that the fixes now being undertaken would completely eliminate the problems, Lentz hesitated a moment and then replied: “Not totally.” [italics added]

Waxman set Lentz up with a question whose answer he knew could only be either dishonest, or easily misinterpreted for sensational effect.  Lentz, should have evaded that question, but he responded in good faith.  And Toyota was promptly and roughly screwed for Lentz’s answer. 

It took more than 10 minutes of searching to find a transcript of this exchange, so most followers of this story will never see an accurate depiction of Toyota’s testimony.  The news media is selling panic – almost every account of this story is inaccurate. 

No wonder Americans have little respect for our news media.  No wonder voters have so much trouble making informed decisions at the ballot box.


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